“Connecticut Western Reserve” A Brief Overview of Early Cleveland History

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“Connecticut Western Reserve”

A Brief Overview of Early Cleveland History

The origins of Cleveland history actually begin in 1662 when King Charles II of England issued a charter to the colony of Connecticut giving them the strip of land between the 41st and 42nd parallels of north latitude and extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. In 1687 this charter became called the “Charter Oak” because it was once concealed in an oak tree for safe keeping. The Charter Oak was confirmed in 1689 by William and Mary of England.

Many groups laid claim to lands in the Western Reserve including the Native Americans, the French, and even other colonies, such as Virginia, Massachusetts, and New York. After the Revolutionary War, the newly formed republic was confronted with the problem of colonial claims to the western lands. It became apparent that these claims would create rivalries among the newly formed states. Therefore, as a requirement to be admitted to the confederation of the “united states”, each individual state was required to give up its claim to their western lands to the new federal government. 

But in 1786, the state of Connecticut asked the Federal Government to allow them to keep a part of her western lands in compensation for her small size. This land was called the “Connecticut Western Reserve.” In 1792, Connecticut set apart a half million acres in the Reserve to compensate citizens who had suffered losses by fire during the Revolution, and they called this land “The Firelands” (which is now part of Erie and Huron counties). The remaining three million acres was sold to the Connecticut Land Company on September 2, 1795 for $1.2 million. The proceeds from this transaction were used by Connecticut for a permanent school fund. 

The Connecticut Land Company consisted of forty-nine men who purchased land in the Connecticut Western Reserve for only 40 cents per acre. The Board of Directors was Moses Cleaveland, Oliver Phelps, Henry Champion, Samuel Johnson, Ephraim Kirby, Samuel Mather and Roger Newberry. Moses Cleaveland was chosen as the general agent and led the surveying team. A detailed description of the Connecticut Land Company can be found in an article written in 1884 by Samuel J. Barker. 

Copies of the deeds for the land sold to the Connecticut Lane Company are on record in Trumbull County Ohio in the Western Reserve Draft Book pp. 5-73. An interesting account of how the lands were portioned out into shares and lots is at the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s website. 

Cleveland: The Best Kept Secret”, by G. E. Condon, 1967.
Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office
Ohio Lands: Chapter 7 www.csuohio.edu/CUT/OhioLands/Chapt7.html
Original Survey of Cleveland, Samuel J. Barker, 1884, www.csuohio.edu/CUT/Clev1884.htm


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